Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No Spend February

Yesterday I was over at "Sunny Simple Life"  where Elaine posted the results of her self-imposed "No Spend January." What a FAB idea!  She challenged herself to not spend money while she was out and about, except for food, toiletries or medicine.  She did surprisingly good.

I am an impulse buyer.  I am horrible about buying I stuff I don't really need.  When I'm at Walmart I always stroll down the "discount" aisle to see what bargains I can snag (that I usually don't need tho.)  I am also terrible about grabbing stuff off the shelves that are alongside the check out counters - a candy bar, a lint roller, magazines.....OMG - I am a sucker for magazines....

But my biggest fall down is I-Tunes.  I know, it doesn't really qualify as an out and about kind of place, but it's so easy to go online and buy songs and apps.  I am an I-Tunes addict and I need an intervention!  Somebody help me!

Therefore, I am embracing the challenge and posing it to myself for the month of February.  I know, I am kind of cheating since it is the shortest month of the year, but I figure it's better than nothing.  LOL!  So, no unnecessary spending and no I-Tunes for one month for me.

Also of interest is that Diane over at "Welcome to Lavender Dreams"  is linking up with Sunny Simple Life and 3 other bloggers and they've started a Thrifty Living 2012 Series.  The downturn in our economy is hurting a lot more people than I realized.  I was under the mistaken notion that we (meaning me personally) are some of the few who are suffering with this crappy economy and no snow situation.  (when you plow snow for a living, no snow equates to NO income.)  But the replies on the Thrifty Living Series Comments sections have made me realize that a lot more than a few of the people in this country are struggling.  Many of us have to tighten our belts these days.  Ouch!

I was appalled when I read first hand how many people are out of work, lost their health insurance, lost their pensions, are drowning in medical bills, or lost their homes.  Some of them have lost a combination of those things all at once.  Yikes!  So many people are earning less, however gas prices are crazy high, food costs are up, insurance rates keep going up, taxes are up.   Seems like everything is up except income.

My personal favorite is how I've been putting our heat on 60 at night to save money and then the Gas Company (because their earnings were down - oh Boo Hoo for them)  just decided to raise their rates.  Nice - Not!  And, I recently asked my mortgage company to refinance my loan to let me take advantage of a much lower rate.  They refused.  So I just went and re-financed at a new mortgage company.  I'm saving almost
$ 400.00/ month on my mortgage.    Believe me, I did a happy dance the day the new mortgage went through.  Did someone say Snap??  I'm following the Thrifty Living Series with a notebook and pen and I am taking notes and will be applying their thrifty tips to our lives.

So does anyone else out there want to hop onto the "No Spend February" challenge?  It starts tomorrow if you're interested.   We can compare notes on March 1st.  And I promise I won't head over to I-Tunes and buy anything before midnight tonight....  I am wincing, but I'm determined to do this.

(google pictures)

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Beautiful Headband Win!

I recently won a give away over at The Pless Press.  Amber was having a giveaway and the prize was a gorgeous headband, hand crafted by her crafty friend Natalie.  Natalie has a shop named Ah noo shig, which is the phoenic spelling of Anoushig, which means pretty, sweet and beautiful and is a nod to her Armenian heritage.  

I think Natalie's headbands are gorgeous.  They are so creative.  Check out the one I won...

I really like the colors and they perfectly fit my personality.  Isn't it adorable?

It's always nice to receive a little gift and this one is just so cute.  If you're looking for a unique gift for the girl in your life, go check out Natalie's headbands at her Etsy shop.  She has a great variety and I can honestly say I've never seen anything like these.  Cute, cute, cute!!

Thanks again to Amber at The Pless Press for hosting the give away.  She has a really nice blog so stop over and say hi to her.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bloodhounded - Geocacher of the Month Nominee

Let's hear a BIG round of applause for my good geocaching friend Kevin, aka, Bloodhounded.  Kevin has been nominated for the Geocacher of the Month Award!

Taken from the official geocaching blog page:  Every month, Lackeys at Groundspeak Headquarters have the chance to learn about the outstanding geocachers in our community. They are nominated by community members for “Featured Geocacher of the Month” because they exemplify innovation, creativity, respect for the environment, and helpfulness. Based off of these nominations and the votes on our blog, each month Groundspeak selects one “Featured Geocacher.” We continue to be stunned by the number of quality candidates as well as the number of geocachers who participate in this monthly process. 

Kevin, aka Bloodhounded, is the driving force behind my favorite geocaching blog (other than mine of course)  CacheCrazy.  I have the honor of being a frequent administrative author over there and I've gotten to know Kevin pretty well over the past year.  Let me tell you - he is one great guy.  But the thing I like the most about him is his dedication to spreading the word about geocaching, both through his blog and also through the geocaches he takes the time to create and place.  They are pretty ingenious.  Plus, he is very involved with scouting and has taken scouts on geocaching excursions to teach them the fun of the sport.

So, if you're a registered geocacher, please take the time to hop over to Geocacher of the Month and cast your vote for Bloodhounded.  The geocaching community will thank you!  I thank you!  And also go over to CacheCrazy and tell him congrats!

Way to go buddy!!!!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Friday Lunch Club at Good Tequila's

Geocaching lunch clubs are quick little meet and greets with lunch involved.  Any geocachers are welcome to join in the fun.  In the cooler weather the lunch clubs take place at various area restaurants, and in the warmer weather they usually consist of a BBQ at the forest preserve or even in someone's back yard.

This months lunch club GC3AF8A  was at a Mexican restaurant called "Good Tequila's".  And good it was!  They had a really nice buffet and I ate way more than I should have eaten.

They had a pretty good turn out of about 25 -30 geocachers.  We all ate and then some people had to leave to go back to work, and some of us stayed and chatted for about an hour and a half.  It was a great afternoon.

Friday Lunch Clubs are always fun!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Chicago in an Hour and a Half

My daughter had a meeting in Chicago today.  Originally she was going to take the El train into the city, but since we didn't really have anything specific to do today, we decided to drive in with her with the intention of dropping her off and going to do a few geocaches.

We left at 8:55 am.  We got onto the expressway which is literally 1 minute from our house.  The office she had a meeting at in downtown Chicago is 16 miles away.   Here's what traffic on the Kennedy Expressway going into Chicago looks like at 9:30 am......

It took us an hour and 35 minutes to get her to her meeting.  We ended up getting off the expressway 2 miles short of where we were supposed to get off and we were flying down side streets.  One of the bridges we had to cross was blocked due to construction and we got routed back onto the expressway, going back towards home.  OMG!!  Mario Andretti My husband was on a mission and let's just say that we miraculously pulled up in front of the office with 2 minutes to spare.  I hate driving into Chicago.  Ugh!  Here's a tip - take the Metra if you can!

We dropped her off and drove down to Belmont Harbor where we decided to go for a walk along the lake front.  It was extremely overcast today and the threat of snow is in the air.....

I was surprised to see several fisherman casting lines out into the open water at the mouth of the harbor....

We walked around to the inside harbor.  The current was pushing sheets of ice into the harbor and when they hit the stationary ice, it sounded like thunder.

We got back into the car and drove down to Montrose Harbor.  There were several fishermen out on the ice in the harbor, sitting on buckets and fishing for perch.  One guy caught one while we were standing there.  The ice was at least a foot thick here which surprised me because it really hasn't been super cold this year.

It was cold down at the lake today!  You can tell because my jacket is zipped and my gloves are on.

Then we walked over to the Bird Sanctuary which is right on the lakefront.....

and hiked over some of the trails.  They were pretty iced over so we just took our time.

We managed to find a geocache hidden there in spite of the frozen snow cover.

We had a list of 7 geocaches we wanted to do, but the parking situation in Chicago, as well as the heavy traffic, makes it almost impossible to drive and park anywhere near caches.....

The 2 round buildings are the Marina Towers....

Here we were sitting on the bridge over the river.  We were this close to a cache, but couldn't find a place to park.  I just stared at where I thought it was with a sad face as we pulled away...

This is Wacker Drive....

World famous Morton Steak House....

After Chablis' meeting we took the streets back towards home.   We were sitting at a light at the Belmont Train Station and I liked this face on the piling....

We slowly made our way to Roma's, located on Cicero, in an area of Chicago called 6 Corners.  Roma's is known for their hot dogs and beef sandwiches and has been in Chicago for almost 40 years.  It's a small place, no tables, just a short counter along the windows with a few stools.  In the summer, the line is often out the door.  I used to work around the corner from there and we would walk over for lunch.  I love their excellent beef sandwiches. Chablis got a meatball sandwich today and she said it was the best one she's ever eaten.  Conveniently, there was a geocache hidden in the parking lot, so I made the grab while Louie was getting lunch.  Maurie the Hot Dog TB posed for a photo!

That was our day in Chicago.  I like going downtown once in awhile, but slap me upside the head the next time that I suggest driving in.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Books vs. Kindle

Last week I was over at my friend Loui's Mountain Mermaid Blog and I got a big kick out of her "Joy of Books" post.  Check it out and watch the cute video she posted.  Her blog post that day made me sit and think about the current state of books.

Books vs. Kindle

I am so torn - I love to read and I'm always reading more than one book at a time.  I have a Kindle, which is wonderful because it's so easy to slip in my purse and I can take it almost anywhere.  I can also quickly buy books and have them immediately.   Right now I have about 50 books on my Kindle.  I like to pour over the free book listings on Amazon and download anything that sounds good.  Even if I were to load 100 books onto my Kindle, I could still carry it in one hand.  Imagine trying to balance 100 actual books - Impossible!

However....  I love the feel of a book.  I like to hold it in my hands and turn the pages.  I like the sound that the pages make when you turn them.  There is something exciting about cracking open a book for the first time and diving in.   Ever since I was a kid,  it was such a thrill to receive a book as a gift.  Most of the time my nose would be buried in the book before I had even finished opening my other gifts.

One of my earliest memories is getting a copy of "The Red Balloon"  from my grandparents.

I bet I read that book a hundred times over the years.

Back in the late 1950's, before there was such a thing as an audio book, my grandmother used to make reel to reel audio tapes of herself reading different children's books.  Then I would sit on the floor in front of her huge stereo hi fi unit, with the corresponding book in my lap. "Hansel & Gretel" was one of my favorites.  Nonny would be out in the kitchen making lunch, and I would sit and listen to her read the story on tape.  When it was time for me to turn the page, her tape recorded voice would say "Kimmie, turn the page."   And so I would quickly turn the page and stare at the pictures while her soft voice tumbled from the speakers and poured over me.  Later, I would start to actually run my finger over the words, trying so hard to read them.

I love and cherish books.  If I had room in my house I'd love to have rows of floor-to-ceiling, built in,  wooden book shelves.  You know, the kind with a rolling ladder so I could reach the ones way up high.  Even today I still have many of my old childhood favorites, because I just can't stand the thought of parting with them.  Books like  "The Red Balloon,"  "Anatole Over Paris,"  "Yertle the Turtle,"  "One Fish, Two Fish," "Caroline,"  "The Big Jump,"  "Peter the Parakeet,"  "Charlotte's Web."   When my kids were little, I read all of these books to them and they became their favorites as well.  Maybe one day I'll be reading them again to my grandchildren.  Every time I read them, they still delight me.  How does one throw out a book?

One of the biggest events of my childhood was the day my mom took me to the Chicago Public Library and I got my own library card!  The doors parted and I thought I had died and gone to book heaven.  Huge sunlit rooms, long wooden tables, book carts on rollers and row upon row upon row of books....  More books than I could count or fathom.  I think the very first book I ever took out was the Laura Ingalls Wilder book "The Little House on the Prairie."  Right then and there the flood gates opened and I was swept away on a literary sea.  For the rest of my life I would have books piled on my nightstand, strewn on my end tables, stacked next to my lazy boy chair, stuffed in my purse, and teetering on book shelves.  I still have my original library card.....

It's been a hard transition for me to Kindle.  It's easy, convenient, compact.  You turn the pages with a flick of the screen.  And like I said, it holds hundreds of books.  Kindle has its advantages, but it's not the same.

So, based on my post, which do you think I prefer.  Which do you prefer?

My favorite gift to give, is a book.  And my favorite gift to receive, is a book.  You can never go wrong with a book.

(all google images)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Clif Bar Giveaway Contest Winners

Thanks everyone for entering the giveaway for some excellent Clif Bar Crunch.

I used the Random Number Generator Program to determine the winners and the winning comment numbers were:

11  Lytles
15  Bloodhounded
2    Della
16  GPC

If the 4 of you will email me your shipping information, I will forward it to Clif Bar so they can get your prize packages mailed out.  You have until 5 PM on Wednesday to get me your addresses.  Watch your in boxes for my email which will be sent out this morning.

Congrats to the winners and a big thank you to Clif Bar for hosting my first giveaway!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Original Stash

The Original Stash is the location of the very first geocache ever placed. Dave Ulmer placed a 5 gallon bucket in this location on May 3, 2000 and listed the GPS co-ordinates on the internet.  Taken from the History of Geocaching:  On May 3, one such enthusiast, Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, wanted to test the accuracy by hiding a navigational target in the woods. He called the idea the "Great American GPS Stash Hunt" and posted it in an internet GPS users' group. The idea was simple: Hide a container out in the woods and note the coordinates with a GPS unit.  The finder would then have to locate the container with only the use of his or her GPS receiver. The rules for the finder were simple: "Take some stuff, leave some stuff." 

On May 3rd he placed his own container, a black bucket, in the woods near Beavercreek, Oregon, near Portland. Along with a logbook and pencil, he left various prize items including videos, books, software, and a slingshot. He shared the waypoint of his "stash" with the online community on sci.geo.satellite-nav:
N 45° 17.460 W 122° 24.800
It was the stash that kicked off the craze of geocaching as we now know it.  GCGV0P 

The original cache container has since been damaged beyond repair, so in it's place there is now a commemorative plaque and an ammo box nearby that contains the logbook.  In the years since, over 5500 geocachers have made the pilgramage to Portland, Oregon to visit this historic location.  It's been listed almost 1000 times as a favorite geocache.  The cache page also has over 2800 photos attached of people documenting their visits.

Located just 5 hours away from Groundspeak Headquarters, this would make a fun road trip.  Maybe someday!

Don't forget about the current Clif Bar giveaway I have going on until Jan. 22, 2012.  Click the link and be sure to enter.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Clif Bar Giveaway!


Did you know that January 21 is National Granola Bar Day? Well Clif Bar does, and to celebrate we would love to send you some samples of CRUNCH, CLIF Bar’s crunchy granola bar that provides one serving of organic whole grains, with a fresh baked texture.

I am really excited about having my very first giveaway contest and Clif Bar is doing me the honor of being my first Give Away Sponsor.  In fact, they are giving away not one, not two, not even three - but four boxes of their Clif Crunch granola bars.  That means 4 lucky readers will each be receiving one box of Clif Crunch.

With the recent addition of Blueberry Crisp and Chocolate Peanut Butter, CRUNCH now comes in 6 delicious flavors that provides the energy you need, whatever the adventure.

CRUNCH into National Granola Bar Day:
- Great source of fiber
- 3-4g of protein
- No artificial sweeteners or preservatives
- Fewer carbohydrates compared to the original CLIF Bar for days of lighter activity
- Crunchy texture
- 2 crispy bars per package

Personally, I love Clif Bars.  They are my favorite snack when I'm finished working out and I eat one every time I leave the gym.  They are my go-to snack when geocaching and hiking.   They are the perfect size to keep in my jacket pocket or a backpack.  

I want to tell you a quick, funny story.....  I got a box of their White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Bars for Christmas.  (My personal favorite) I put the box on the shelf in my pantry.  I ate one bar and then the next time I went for another bar, I noticed that 3 of them were missing.  It turns out that my daughter keeps eating them.  I wrote MOM's BARS across the front of the remaining ones in magic marker so she stops eating them on me!   True story!

The Clif Bar Company contributes 1% of sales to Environmental Organizations.  They give back to the community by donating employee time to help around the country with different projects and causes.  Plus they strive to reduce their ecological footprint in all aspects of their company - and what they are doing must be working because their efforts have been recognized across the country.  Please go check out their website to get more in-depth information on all they do.  It will be well worth your time.

Clif Bar also has a Facebook page so you might want to go visit and LIKE them.  

So here's how you can enter to win -

** Follow my blog - either be a current follower or become a new follower.


**  Leave a message in the comment section below letting me know why you love granola.

Since National Granola Bar Day is this Saturday, the 21st, we'll leave the contest open until Sunday the 22nd, at midnight CST.   I'll pick 4 winners on Monday morning and announce them on my blog.  If you're one of the lucky winners, I'll need you to email me your contact information within 48 hours of announcing the winners.  Clif Bar will then get your box of granola crunch mailed out to you.  It's as simple as that.

Don't miss out on this great giveaway opportunity.  I'd like to give a big THANK YOU to Clif Bar for sponsoring the contest!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Groundspeak Headquarters

(Signal the Frog, photo from Groundspeak)

Groundspeak was founded in 2000 to manage Geocaching.com, which is the global headquarters for the sport of geocaching.  Groundspeak Headquarters is located in Seattle, Washington and it's also the location of an official geocache -  GCK25B.   Lackeys is an honorary term used to describe the Groundspeak founders and their employees.  Being a Lackey is considered a badge of honor.

In order to gain access to the building you have to make an appointment ahead of time.  Their current hours for visiting are from 2:00 - 3:00 pm, Tuesday through Friday.  Once inside they'll give you a tour and you can officially "find" the geocache, which I understand is a huge treasure chest, loaded with travel bugs from around the world.  Then you can log in on the log book, trade for swag and take some pictures.

To date, over 4000 geocachers have logged in at the site and over 830 cachers have named it one of their favorite caches.  Currently there are over 70 TB's sitting there waiting to be traded.

I hope to one day be able to make the trip to Seattle and visit Groundspeak Headquarters.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Code White

Woo-hoo - it's snowing, which we call a "Code White"  around here.  Excuse me while I go do a few cartwheels and dance with Snoopy!

If you're wondering why I'm so happy, it's because we plow snow for a living, and so far this winter, there has been no money made over here.  So it can snow all it wants from now until spring - no complaints from me.

We'll be pretty busy for the next 24 hours, so I'll just leave you with this....

The Pless Press Blog is highlighting a giveaway for an adorable headband by Natalie, who owns ah●noo●shig which is an ETSY shop.    Wow, try saying THAT 3 times quickly! Natalie makes some really cute headbands and if you're looking for a cute gift idea for the girl in your life, this might just be the ticket.   There are lots of different opportunities to win, so go visit her blog and try to win something.

Ok, gotta go to work!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

5.11 Tactical Writing Contest

5.11 Tactical is hosting a writing contest and they have some SWEET equipment for their prize package.  The contest is over on January 13th, so if you're interested, hop over and check it out.


While you're over there, take a look at all the outdoors clothes and equipment they have - clothing for women and men, boots, backpacks, flashlights, gloves, eye wear and all kinds of accessories.

You can bet that I entered the contest!  Keep your fingers crossed.

Fischer Farms

The other day we were geocaching in the past which is always fun, because it takes us to locations with history from a 100 years ago or more.  You can read about the beginning of our day here.  But the really interesting part of the day was the final location of a 2 part cache named "Churchville Cemetery - Illinois Spirit Quest."

The cache was hidden in a section of woods right next to Fischer Farms, so we parked in their parking lot and walked over to peer into the cabin windows.

The place was deserted, so we walked over to the barn and checked that out too....

Just then a guy came walking out of the main house and it turned out to be Jonathan, the property historian, and he offered to open up the buildings for us so we could walk through them.  Hell yes!!

The Fischer Family came over to America from Germany in 1836 and homesteaded on 1000 acres in what would later become Bensenville, Illinois.  It's now believed to be the oldest remaining homestead in the county.  Here Conrad Fischer and his wife built this small cabin and lived there with 5 of their children.

It'd hard to believe that so many people lived in such a small space.

I love this wall....

The 2nd floor was probably a huge bedroom....

At some point some relatives came to live with them as well, so they built an addition onto one side of the cabin.  Unfortunately the addition is no longer there.

Next we walked over behind the barn where an old piece of machinery was wedged between 2 trees.  The rusty form has been there for so long that the trees actually grew up around it.  They used this machine to feed logs through and cut them into planks for building....

Eventually they grew into a prosperous farm and dairy business.  We saw another barn, which was huge......

And the chicken coop......

The property just north of the barns has never been touched - it was never tilled or built upon and contains the 3 major ecosystems of Illinois: prairie, forest and wetland.  The land is in the same condition that it's been for hundreds of years and contains original seedbeds.

The main house on the property was then built in the 1920's.  It had 8 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a full basement and a full attic.  6 great grandchildren of Conrad Fischer grew up there.

Here are some of the bedrooms....

This is the 2nd floor bathroom...

The 1st floor dining room where I'm standing with Jonathan....

The kitchen....

I love the wood.....

The Fischers and their descendants lived on the property from 1836 until 1999.  They were the only family to ever live there.  Bensenville Park District now operates the property, which is considered a park and they are working to restore the property and grounds.

One of the walls had old family photos.....

Currently they hold a Quilt Show there in the spring and a Heritage Days Celebration in the autumn, as well as summer camps, hikes and special events.  There are also plans in the works for more events as the restoration work is completed.  Right now the property is open for touring on a limited basis, and its free, although they do accept donations.  

Count yourself lucky if Jonathan happens to be there when you visit - he's a fountain of information on the property and the Fischer Family and I could have stood and talked to him for hours.

Geocaching in the past is one of my favorite types of geocaching to do!
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